Wrist Sprains: How to Make the Most of Your Recovery

Feb 01, 2024
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Sprained wrists can be painful, but with the right care, your wrist can heal and be as good as new. Rehabilitation plays a key role in restoring normal wrist function. Here’s what to do to help your wrist recover.

Wrist sprains are a common type of injury, especially among athletes and other active people. But because many sprains happen as the result of a fall, they’re also an injury that can happen to anyone, regardless of activity level.

With offices in Kihei, Kahului, and Lahaina, Hawaii, Minit Medical Urgent Care and Physical Therapy offers reliable, patient-centered care for wrist sprains, relieving painful symptoms while helping restore normal wrist function. 

Here, our experts explain what you can do to speed your own recovery following a wrist sprain.

How wrist sprains happen

The wrist is a complex joint comprising multiple bones connected by tough, fibrous bands called ligaments. These ligaments help your wrist move and stay stable and flexible. A sprain happens when a ligament is stretched beyond its normal capacity and sometimes torn as a result.

Most sprains happen in an accidental fall — specifically when you extend your arm and hand to help break your fall. When a fall causes your wrist to bend abruptly, it strains and overstretches the ligament. 

Sprains vary in severity, and they’re graded according to the level of injury:

  • Grade 1: Ligaments are stretched, but not torn
  • Grade 2: Ligaments are partially torn
  • Grade 3: Ligaments are completely torn or detached from the bone

Grade 3 sprains sometimes tear away a piece of the bony attachment, an injury known as an avulsion fracture.

Not surprisingly, wrist sprain symptoms vary with the intensity of the sprain. Most sprains involve some degree of:

  • Pain with joint movement
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Tenderness to the touch

When the sprain occurs, you may hear or feel a “popping” sound or sensation caused by the abrupt movement or tearing of the ligament.

Recovering from a wrist sprain

Even a mild sprain can have long-term implications if it’s not treated properly. Any type of wrist pain needs to be evaluated right away — especially after a fall or other impact injury. Our on-site X-ray lab makes evaluation fast and simple, helping us rule out fractures and confirm your diagnosis, so medical care can begin immediately.

Most wrist sprains benefit from conservative treatment. That begins with RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Apply an ice pack as often as directed to limit inflammation and swelling, and keep your wrist elevated over your heart to reduce swelling, as well. 

A compression bandage helps stabilize your wrist and promote tissue healing. We may apply a wrist brace or splint, as well. Splints and braces offer added support while limiting movement to give the ligaments time to heal.

You’ll need to modify your activities during healing, too. As your tissues mend, physical therapy helps your wrist regain normal strength, stability, flexibility, and range of motion to restore movement and, ideally, help prevent further injury.

Stick with your rehabilitation plan

We use our wrists a lot, and sometimes, sticking with a recovery plan can seem awkward, especially if it interferes with normal work or social activities. But following your provider’s advice is essential, not only for speeding healing, but for preventing permanent joint damage and weakness.

If you think you might have a wrist sprain or if you have any type of wrist pain, swelling, or stiffness, don’t delay — see our experts for a full injury evaluation ASAP. 

To get the care you need to feel better and prevent more serious joint damage, book an appointment online or over the phone with Minit Medical Urgent Care and Physical Therapy today.